Stasha’s footsteps echoed as she walked along the road towards what once had been her home. Everything else faded into the background, the world almost silent except for the lonely beating of the borrowed shoes that pinched her toes with every step. But the pain in her feet was barely noticeable. She could think of nothing but the family who should be by her side, the mother, father, sisters who would never walk this road again.
The houses lining the road were in varying states of disrepair. Some looked like they just had a leaky roof, others were almost non-existent, so severe was the bomb damage. It made it harder to find her way, but Stasha knew where she was going. Eventually she reached number thirty-five. Half the roof had been blown away – it looked so pitiful, the only sign of life the door that hung half off its hinges, proof that someone had been inside at least. Though Stasha doubted there would be anything of value inside now. Any items left behind by the Germans would have been stolen by starving neighbours and traded for stale bread or an old potato.
Stasha took a deep breath and slid through the narrow gap in the doorway. Her old home had been ripped apart; furniture lay broken in every room, surrounded by smashed glass and a lone chair leg poking out from behind the remains of her father’s armchair. Swallowing back the tears, she forced herself to go through the rest of the house. Upstairs, she entered the room she had once shared with her youngest sister, Hanna. Again, all the family’s possessions had been taken away, the larger ones smashed up and used for firewood or bartering. Stasha was about to leave when something caught her eye. In the corner, where her little bookcase had once stood, was her music box. The music box her father had made for her when she was a young girl. It couldn’t possibly have survived. And yet… Stasha ran over and picked it up carefully. Opened the lid, which resisted her touch at first, groaning loudly. But it did open, and Stasha felt her cheeks growing damp. She held the music box, handling it carefully as if were made of glass. As she turned it over, her heart began to pound. There it was, the message that her father had engraved for her.
To my dear Stasha, on your eighth birthday. Always treasure the music. Carry
it in your heart. Your loving father.
Stasha curled up on the floor of the room where she had slept as a child, where she had whispered to Hanna at night and hugged her when she had a bad dream. The room where they had been dragged from their beds in the middle of the night and herded into the train like cattle. She held the music box close and thought of her beloved family. They would always be with her. She would carry them in her heart.
This week’s flash fiction prompt was ‘music box’. My story was inspired by reading about Holocaust Memorial Day, which was on 27 January, and also by the book Mischling by Affinity Konar, which I love (you can read my review here). You can also read Matt Gardner’s music box story too over at fuzzyfiction.com/stories/the-melody-of-memory.